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Gov. Samuel Ortom And Benue’s Re-Election Politics…

As various groups in Benue State are asking Governor Samuel Ortom to seek a re-election, JOHNSON BABAJIDE writes on how the governor has been keeping them in suspense.

AS the hands of the clock ticks towards 2019 general election, the political environment in Benue State is assuming an interesting dimension with various groups falling over themselves in the call on Governor Samuel Ortom to make his second term ambition known so as to swing into action.

But the governor, known for his deft planning, is yet to throw his hat into the ring, insisting to seek divine direction before making his declaration.

This is not the first time Governor Ortom will place his political ambition in the hands of God. On several occasions, he had constantly drummed this to the ears of whoever cares to listen that he is a destiny child.

“And once, I receive divine direction on any issue, I know I will not fail because God has not disappointed me,” he had said.

But the response is yet to stop the calls by various groups in the state who always file out in their numbers to pressure the governor to make his ambition known so as to know the next line of action.

A politician once said, “in politics, a day is like a year and four years is like eternity.” This dictum, according to a political analyst in the state, Comrade Anas Shima, “is apt in justifying the clarion calls by various groups because in politics, you do not take things for granted.”

Among those who have stormed the seat of government to call on the governor to declare his intention include Benue Youths, Igede leaders, while elders have continued to drum support for him. Others included the All Progressives Congress (APC) leaders at the local government and ward levels from Benue North East Senatorial District otherwise referred to as Zone A.

Benue Youths opened the floodgate when they defied a downpour recently to register their intention to support Governor Ortom to clinch a second term.

The youth, who wore T-shirts with the inscriptions, ‘Benue Youths endorse Ortom for 2019’, said they decided to support Ortom for a second term in office based on what they described as his impressive performance in the last two years.

Their spokespersons, who were drawn from the three senatorial districts of the state, Anthony Adah, Dan Nyikwagh and Sunny Nyio, said that the call became necessary for them to encourage him to run for a second term.

Major reasons for their endorsement, according to the youth, are: the governor’s boldness to institute the implement the anti-grazing law which is intended to stop the yearly crisis between local farmers and herdsmen and restore peace permanently among the residents of the state.

Also counted in Ortom’s favour is the amnesty programme which has reduced criminality across the state and his administration’s efforts at revitalising the green revolution which they said is gradually becoming the state’s economic hub.

Since the Benue Youths broke the ice, it has been a sing-song in the state as people and groups in the state have also been pouring out on the streets almost on a daily basis to impress it upon the governor to run again.

Elders are not left out in drumming support for Ortom’s second term. Elder statesman and former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, in his usual humorous style during his visit to the state at the maiden meeting of ‘Zero Hunger Forum’ in Makurdi, also learnt support to Ortom’s second term.

According to him, “I have sighted posters adorning streets with inscription such as Ortom: 4+4=8; Akume that is an assignment for you.” Though this might have been a joke, it added a great fillip to second term aspiration of the governor.

The former president’s humorous implied directive to Senator George Akume seems to have put to a halt the rumour in some quarters that APC leader in the state, Senator Akume, was shopping for an alternative candidate.

Akume had also openly declared at a recent meeting with youths from his constituency that the party was not shopping for another candidate to run on the platform of the party in 2019. According to him, “we do not have any intension to replace the sitting governor in 2019, he still remains our sole candidate.”

Among elders that have thrown their support to Ortom’s re-election include Second Republic senator, Senator Jacob Gyado, who emphasised that Ortom’s humility, doggedness and respect for elders as well as determination to correct mistakes of the past were the major ingredients that have earned him acceptability across the three senatorial districts in the state.

Also Second Republic Minister of Power and Steel and chairman Northern Elders Forum (NEF), Paul Unongo who is known for his bluntness had, during a maiden meeting of the forum in Benue few weeks ago, described the governor as “a son of immense political knowledge who should be supported to fully actualise his dreams for the state.”

Unongo said, “The governor is my son and a visionary politician who keeps his word and his determination to transform Benue is legendary and he should be given a chance and support to excel in the task of transforming the state.”

As the torrential second term calls swell, the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is not resting on its oars to reclaim the power it lost in 2015.

Hence, the declaration of many aspirants, particularly, the old stock in the 2015 election and new entrants are also emerging on daily basis all have begun consultations in earnest and this is adding spice to the political atmosphere in the state.

But analysts, who view the political history of the state, were quick to submit that in all calculations, the incumbent, if he finally submits to the call and declares his intention, may have the odds in his favour.

Sunday Onah, Patrick Edeh and Anas Shima, who spoke separately, drew their analogy from the political history of the state since its creation in 1976, particularly in all the political dispensation from the Second Republic till date. They believe that “second term bid in Benue is always tough, but incumbents have always laughed last’.

Hence, they enjoined the incumbent governor not to be carried away by the calls but to work harder, especially in the area of improving the wellbeing of the people who voted him into office in 2015.

Shima said: “if you go by the political history of Benue since 1983, 2003 and 2011, you will know that these years were the second term years and were very tough for the sitting governors but eventually the incumbents came out victorious.”

“So history may repeat itself in the coming election, we all know the challenges confronting the present administration in terms of non-payment of salaries. But it is not peculiar to Benue. So far, Ortom’s efforts at managing the crisis with the introduction and incentives put into agriculture has given him a brighter chance’.

“When he initiated work-free Fridays many people, including me, castigated him. But I can bet you that Benue is reaping from it now. This clearly shows that if weeping endures for the night, joy cometh in the morning,” he said.

Edeh, in his own analysis, dwelled on political issue, stating that changing an incumbent half way would surely alter the zoning arrangement. According to him, Zone C is yearning for power, now that power rests in Zone B.

“Now that an incumbent has one term more if given the chance, are you saying we should change him and give to someone in the same zone or someone from Zone A as being speculated? Such a person will want to spend two terms and then the seat will come to Zone C.

“To me, whatever the opinion of the politicians, it is better to allow Ortom complete his second term so that power can move to another zone. Anything short of this is political miscalculation,”observed Edeh.

As people of the state await Ortom’s open statement on the call on him to run again early next year as he promised, his supporters are already interceding on his behalf to get go ahead from his creator.

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